DHL Gives Express Gateways a Needed Facelift

With the on-going expansion of its Leipzig base and the planned relocation of the Brussels operation on Brussels Airport itself, DHL Express is preparing for the next decade of parcel distribution. Other gateways may also get some make-over, so it seems.

Leipzig hub of DHL Express  /  courtesy DHL
Leipzig hub of DHL Express / courtesy DHL

On a recent DP DHL press tour for European trade journalists Roy Hughes, EVP Network & Operations DHL Express Global Network, took the delegation through its Leipzig infrastructure. Leipzig is one of the three global hubs of the parcel division together with Hong Kong and Cincinnati. Brussels, the former European global hub, is one of the 19 main regional hubs and one of the 50 top airports within the DHL network.
Combining its own fleet with partners’ aircraft, DHL Aviation has managed to create one virtual airline offering 30 intercontinental flights each day. Europe is served by DHL Air, European Air Transport and Aerologic, its 50/50 joint venture with Lufthansa Cargo AG. In the Americas, the group has subcontracted to a wide range of airlines, including Polar Air Cargo, ABX Air, Astar USA, Kalitta Air, DHL Aero Expreso, DHL Guatemala, TransAm Aero Express Ecuador an Vensecar Internacional.

Largest global air network
Air Hong Kong, Blue Dart Aviation, DHL Aviation, DHL Aviation EEMEA, SNAS and Tasman Cargo Airlines support the traffic in Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (APEM). For Europe to Asia DHL can rely on Aerologic and Asia-US is served by Polar Air. Hugh is convinced that DHL Express has the most extensive worldwide air network, covering over 220 countries and territories.
Leipzig is the group’s major base, offering 48,000 m² of warehouse space on a total site of 129,900 m². The complex cost DP DHL an initial investment of € 300 million. The facility is equipped with a 6.5 km line of conveyor belts. As part of the ‘Pegasus Project’ a new extension will add another 40,000 m² and will double the hub’s operational footprint to 11 football pitches.
The hub expansion, well on its way, costs some € 340 million, plus an additional € 55 million. According to Roy, one of the main advantages will be in reducing the handling time for larger shipments, the so-called ‘non-conveyables’, which now approximately take 65 minutes per piece to process.

Brussels project
Another major project still to be initiated is the complete renewal of the Brussels hub. “This is a very old facility on a site which The Brussels Airport Company is keen to develop itself. We need a modern building, which will be built on a different location than the actual one.” The location in question is on the other side of Brucargo, between the actual cargo village and the military airport of Melsbroek.
Restrictions on night flight and noise regulations forced DHL Express to move the global hub to Leipzig, but over the last few years the Brussels volumes are on the rise again, without adding to the noise problem. “We do not have the noisy aircraft anymore”, says Hugh. “Apart from that, about 60% of the volume in and out of Brussels is trucked.”
On average DHL Express has 210 daily movements in Europe. Contrary to China, where a certain traffic decrease is noted, the European volumes seem to grow quite steadily. Therefore, other gateways need some expansion as well. “We are also investing in Cologne and Marseilles, which is an important gateway for traffic into Africa. We are also upgrading Madrid, CDG and Milan (which is in fact Bergamo’s Orio al Serio).
The airports mentioned are part of DHL’s European hub & spoke network which is, according to Hugh, more cost efficient compared to a point-to-point system because a consolidation of volumes in the hub leads to a better capacity utilisation of the aircraft. “Direct gateway to gateway connections are justified only when the available volume fills up an aircraft.” 

Internet of Things
What the European press tour was really about, was DP DHL’s innovation policy. The programme kicked off at the re-opening ceremony of the redesigned Innovation Center at Troisdorf. DP DHL wants to invest especially in the rapidly growing E-Commerce segment. The group wants to be ready for the Internet of Things, which will connect every thinkable device via the internet with limited human intervention.

No electric aircraft - yet
Of growing importance is the last mile distribution, for which DP DHL has come up with an expanding range of solutions from Packstations to ‘click-to-car’, in which consignments are delivered into car boots. DP DHL is also a keen supporter of green technology, as is illustrated by heavy investments in electric vehicles it has 300. DP DHL is also official sponsor of the Formula E for electric racing cars, the latest edition of which took place at the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin. As yet, the company does not fly any electric aircraft ...

Marcel Schoeters in Brussels

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